Television shows in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s often depicted married couples sleeping separately. While the image of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz sleeping in twin beds may seem extreme now, the trope that was once a TV necessity may be onto something.
And the idea of couples sleeping in separate beds, or even separate rooms, is gaining acceptance in modern times.
A 2019 survey of 3,000 Americans on a mattress review site found nearly a third of the respondents said they’d like a “sleep divorce,” where one person sleeps in another room or even out of the house completely. In Georgia, it was 34%.
And in a 2018 Slumber Cloud survey, nearly half the 2,000 respondents said they would prefer to sleep without their partner, and 19% blamed their partner for their own poor sleep.
“The effects of sleeping in separate rooms can be extremely positive for a relationship, extremely negative for a relationship, or anything in between,” Manhattan psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona told USA Today earlier this year. He said ultimately, it depends on the couple’s initial reason for desiring separate sleeping spots.
“Each couple should examine and discuss clearly and specifically their thoughts, feelings, and needs around this issue to find a mutually satisfying compromise.”
A 2016 study from Paracelsus Private Medical University in Nuremberg, Germany, showed that sleep issues and relationship problems tend to occur simultaneously. One person's lack of sleep because of the other's nighttime tendencies — snoring, restlessness, room temperature — can result in relationship conflicts.
And a 2017 study published in the journal Science Direct found that couples who didn't get enough sleep were more likely to argue.
“It’s usually the wife or girlfriend who favors the idea of separate beds,” Mary Jo Rapini, a relationship and intimacy psychotherapist based in Houston, told the New York Times. “Women are more sensitive to their bed mate’s bad habits, and pregnancy and hormonal changes or problems can cause them to want to sleep alone.”
Couples should examine why one wants a sleep divorce before moving to separate beds, relationship expert Margo Regan told Heathline.
“I think it’s important to look at your motivations for doing it,” she said. “Is it to ‘get away’ or ‘withdraw’ from your partner? Is it a way of trying to claim more ‘me time’ in the relationship? If so, perhaps there are other ways this can be done.”